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Food or biofuel – you can’t have both

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Here is a roundup of the global food shortages around the world reported today with 33 countries facing unrest as families go hungry.

Rising Grain Prices Panic The Developing World
Governments around the world have taken radical measures in recent weeks to control their countries’ supplies of rice. Egypt last week said it would ban all rice exports for six months. Cambodia has stopped all private-sector exports of rice, and India and Vietnam also have imposed restrictions

E Timor looks to Qld to solve food shortage crisis
Queensland Department of Primary Industries spokesman Dr Andrew Borrell says East Timor runs out of food for three months each year because of the high rainfall, erosion and mountainous terrain.

Asian states feel rice pinch
Asian countries have been struggling to cope as the cost of rice has reached record levels. Producers including India, China and Vietnam have restricted exports as they try to protect their stocks and limit inflation. Importers such as Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Afghanistan have been hit hard.

North Korean food shortages make tense situation worse
North Korea’s rising tensions with South Korea and the United States, coupled with soaring international grain prices and flood damage from last year, will probably take a heavy toll among famine-threatened people in the isolated country, relief experts said Thursday.

Vietnam and India move to limit rice exports
HANOI: Vietnam and India on Friday tightened limits on rice exports, joining Egypt and Cambodia in trying to conserve scarce supplies for domestic consumption at the risk of triggering further increases in global rice prices, which have roughly doubled since the start of this year.

Environment: Cuba’s Organic Revolution
The collapse of the Soviet Union forced Cuba to become self-reliant in its agricultural production. The country’s innovative solution was urban organic farming, the creation of “organonponicos”. But will it survive a change of government?

China’s appetite for meat feeds a Brazilian soybean boom
Beset by scarce water supplies, China is turning to a trading partner 24,000 kilometers, or 15,000 miles, away – Brazil – to supply the protein-packed beans essential to create a meat-rich diet.

In Egypt, An Escalating Bread Crisis
Across Egypt this year, people have waited in line for hours at bakeries that sell government-subsidized bread, sign of a growing crisis over the primary foodstuff in the Arab world’s most populous country.

… and here is a rundown on how the production of biofuels is affecting the global food crisis.

U.N. Chief Calls For Review Of Biofuels Policy
United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has called for a comprehensive review of the policy on biofuels as a crisis in global food prices – partly caused by the increasing use of crops for energy generation – threatens to trigger global instability.

Massacres and paramilitary land seizures behind the biofuel revolution
Armed groups in Colombia are driving peasants off their land to make way for plantations of palm oil, a biofuel that is being promoted as an environmentally friendly source of energy.

UN rights expert warns of risks of biofuels The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food says the production of biofuels violates basic human rights. He said a massive hike in food prices was leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in developing countries

In a recent statement, Josette Sheeran, executive director of the UN’s World Food Program, said the global economy had created:

“a perfect storm for the world’s hungry, caused by high oil and food prices and low food stocks… Higher food prices will increase social unrest in a number! of countries which are sensitive to inflationary pressures and are import-dependent. We will see a repeat of the riots we have already reported on the streets such as we have seen in Burkina Faso, Mexico, Cameroon and Senegal.”


Written by Greg Naylor

6 April 2008 at 9:01 am

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6 Responses

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  1. Wow! Great information. Although I am for alternative (to petrol) energy sources, I always though that the biofuel solution didn’t make much sense, at least in America (ethanol), due to the major use of pesticides and nitrogen fertilizer, energy needed to process it and the large amounts of land needed to make it worthwhile. I always felt that it was just another subsidy. Now we are actually hearing about rising grain prices and shortages. Very interesting.


    6 April 2008 at 9:31 am

  2. Obviously yet another argument FOR solar, wind and geo-thermal energies as a renewable source I’d say.


    10 April 2008 at 1:33 pm

  3. Solar, wind and geo-thermal energies can’t replace traditional transport fuels. I have no problems with biofuels, but let’s make sure we can have a feed first

    Greg Naylor

    10 April 2008 at 1:37 pm

  4. You might be interested in a report released today (14 April) regarding government support for biofuels in Australia. The report was produced by the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, based on original research by the Centre for International Economics and the GSI.

    The report notes that the rate of assistance for biofuels is much higher than for any other Australian industry.

    The Australian federal and state governments spent A$ 95 million supporting biofuel production and consumption in 2006–07. That cost could grow to several hundred million dollars a year by the end of the decade if planned new biofuel facilities come on-line. The effective rates of assistance (ERAs) for most biofuels were found to be over 100 per cent, far more than any other Australian industry. The next-highest ERA in Australia is for dairy cattle farming, which was 15 per cent in 2006–07, according to the Productivity Commission.

    Such high levels of assistance are not warranted by the CO2 or energy-security benefits delivered by biofuels. Under even the most optimistic scenario for Australian biofuels, the amount of funding required to achieve a one-tonne reduction of CO2 through biofuel subsidies could have purchased between 5 and 30 tonnes of CO2-equivalent offsets on the U.S. or European carbon markets. Biofuel subsidies are also an expensive way to reduce fossil fuel use, costing between A$ 0.50 and A$ 2.00 for every litre of petroleum-equivalent displaced.

    The full report is available from

    Tara Laan

    14 April 2008 at 8:52 pm

  5. Thanks for the link above Tara.

    Browsing through that site, you get to see how government subsidies to private industry can affect the viability of food crops around the world.

    As I will be offline for a while with a medical condition, I would ask some of the regulars to peruse that information and make a few comments in the search for the truth.

    Here is the latest article on the subject …

    Biofuel a ‘crime against humanity’
    Article from: Agence France-Presse

    MASSIVE production of biofuels is “a crime against humanity” because of its impact on global food prices, a UN official said today on German radio.

    Using arable land to produce crops for biofuels has reduced surfaces available to grow food, many observers warn.

    Mr Ziegler called on the International Monetary Fund to change its policies on agricultural subsidies and to stop supporting only programs aimed at debt reduction.

    Agriculture should also be subsidied in regions where it ensured the survival of local populations, he said.

    Greg Naylor

    14 April 2008 at 9:18 pm

  6. Hi Great informational Blog!

    I have been working in Bio Fuels in Africa since 2008 I am posting to warn people about “Dr” Peter McHendry who has taken over R3,000,000 from investors into his Global BioDiesel, Omnium investment Trust, Akula Trading 227 PTY compaines.

    He is also responsible for a Voulenteer Scam “Great Earth Safari” and Christian Ski – He ran away from America after his property there was forclosed

    full details including contact numbers for the Police in South Africa can be found here;

    We cannot let the BioFuel Industry get tarnished by people like “Dr” Peter Mc Hendry


    24 October 2010 at 4:54 am

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